It’s the most wonderful time of the year—the winter holiday season. From tree decorating to festive foods to reading and retelling the Christmas story, the holidays look different from family to family. Two John Brown University seniors, Chris Ridings and Rachel Barber, both share what their typical holiday season looks like.
“The holiday season was and still is a very important time in my family. Some of my fondest memories growing up were centered around the holidays,” Ridings, senior digital cinema major, said. “Normally, we stay at my parents’ home in Colorado Springs, but as the years have gone by and my siblings have all grown and gotten married, it’s definitely not the same anymore. I still go home for Christmas and my siblings try too, but we’ve all moved out now.”
“We live in Little Rock, Arkansas but my grandparents and rest of my parents’ families are either in Texas or Mississippi,” Barber, child and family studies senior, said. “So we drive seven hours down to Meridian, Texas. It’s this little tiny town. And we spend Christmas day there. And then, were there for a couple more days, too. But we’re always there for Christmas eve and Christmas day…And then, we get in the car the day after Christmas and drive eight hours across to Mississippi. And that side of the family is completely different. We get up early. We spend a lot of time outside, in fact, sometimes for fun we like to cut down big trees in the forest.”
For both Ridings and Barber, the Christmas story plays an important role in their holiday celebrations. “Every year my sisters and I had to think of a creative way to retell the story of Jesus’ birth, before we could open our presents,” Ridings recalled. “We would get pretty creative with it. One time we did a Harry Potter puppet pal rendition, and another time we did a sports broadcast play by play of the event, and another time I made a really creepy but kinda amazing music video. My parents weren’t concerned with how we told the story, as long as Jesus was the center of it.”
“[In Texas,] we get up in the mornings, well, we get up at like 11:30 A.M., not quite that late but we don’t get up that early on that side of the family, and read the Christmas story,” Barber said. “My Papa does, because he’s a pastor. It’s something he’s always done. And then we just exchange gifts and we eat sometime around there, but it’s pretty simple. . .[In Mississippi,] the first night we get there we go upstairs to a little sitting area they have upstairs and do stockings, which are actually just big gift bags full of socks and really random practical things that my grandmother thinks we need and then we open presents downstairs and we read the story, the Christmas story as well, but that night’s typically pretty late.”
Nertz, a card game similar to Dutch Blitz, always makes an appearance at Barber’s holiday celebration, as does chocolate chip peppermint cake.
“My nanny will start cooking, like, three weeks out and then she’ll freeze everything so it stays fresh,” Barber said. “She’ll do a honey glazed spiral ham, strawberry pretzel salad which is really good, but it sounds disgusting—a little sweet and salty. Heavenly hash, it’s a very Southern thing. Green bean bundles, rolls—Mrs. Sister Schubert’s rolls. She doesn’t make them from scratch any more. The grandkids always make banana blueberry fruit pies together. . .in Mississippi, it just kind of depends, honestly. We’ll do a turkey, though, stuff like that. We have some similar dishes on that side. Very Southern, traditional things.”
As far as other traditional foods go, Ridings shared one of his own. “We don’t have many traditions relating to food, other than the fact that we like to eat a lot,” Ridings said. “One thing I know will show up every holiday is a Jello recipe passed on from my Aunt Ada. I have no words to describe it other than the fact that it’s delicious.”
Ridings will return home to Colorado this holiday season. Barber will spend this holiday both in Texas and Mississippi.
“I’m going home this year and most of my family will be there,” Ridings said. “My sister and her husband recently moved to Florida, because Blake, my brother-in-law, got a job at Disney and Sarah, my sister, got a job at a design company. They won’t be able to make it, since they’re settling into their new life out there. So, it’ll be different.”
Nonetheless, both said they look forward to relaxing and enjoying their family traditions.